CAPE ELIZABETH — Voters on June 9 overwhelmingly approved a $23.5 million school budget that doesn’t require a tax increase.

Nearly 42 percent of those who responded to a separate advisory question on the ballot said the town should be spending more on schools. Eleven percent of the town’s registered voters went to the polls.

The school budget also passed in South Portland, where only a fraction of the city’s registered voters cast ballots.

Cape Elizabeth residents approved their budget 635-236, with 363 voters saying it was too low, 274 saying it was too high, and 231 saying it was acceptable.

The flat-tax budget was a source of disagreement between the School Board and Town Council in the weeks leading up to Tuesday’s vote.

The School Board’s proposed budget of $23.6 million was cut by the Town Council on May 11. Despite alternate options presented by the School Board, councilors voted 4-3 to avoid a tax increase.

Although there will be no tax increase, the budget will increase $296,000, or 1.3 percent, over the current year.

School Board Chairwoman Joanna Morrissey said she and the rest of the board members are pleased with Tuesday’s results.

“I’m not surprised at all that the majority of the community said it was too low,” Morrissey said.

Councilor Jessica Sullivan, who supported the flat tax rate, said she saw the answers to the budget advisory question differently.

“The majority was a combination of acceptable and too high,” Sullivan said. “Also, there was a low voter turnout and I take that to mean that citizens were satisfied with the council’s decision.”

Councilor Jim Walsh, who also supported the budget cut, said he didn’t find the question of what voters thought of the budget to be meaningful.

“I do not read very much into the advisory questions,” he said. “The Town Council made the right decision to send this school budget with a zero percent increase to voters.”

Morrissey said she’s ready for the town to move on.

“I’m just so pleased that we’re able to put this behind us,” Morrissey said. “… There’s so many more things to focus on rather than to dwell on why the budget was cut.”

South Portland

Voters in South Portland on Tuesday approved a $46 million school budget, 379-231.

Of the nearly 19,000 registered voters in the city, only 610, or approximately 3 percent, cast ballots.

“I’m pleased that once again our community has shown its support for education,” Superintendent of Schools Suzanne Godin said.

“The turnout is disappointing, but clearly an indication that a referendum process is unnecessary in South Portland. Our community supports our elected officials making decisions about various city budgets,” she said. 

The school budget represents a 3.5 percent increase from this year. It includes nearly $3.7 million for student and staff support, more than $4.1 million for facilities maintenance, almost $2.4 million for school administration, more than $319,000 for career and technical education, and nearly $5 million for debt service and other commitments.

The City Council is slated to approve the municipal budget of about $95 million, or an increase of 3 percent, at its next meeting on Monday, June 15.

Staff writer Alex Acquisto contributed to this report. Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

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